Wearable Enclosure

I thought last week’s class about rulers was my favorite until Ben taught us about enclosures. It’s always a wonderful treat to listen to someone talk about their passions with enthusiasm. It helps to put things into perspective and learn to appreciate them.


Leftover Acrylic  – Canal Plastic

Arcade Joystick – courtesy Roland

Bamboo Tray – Container Store

With finals in full swing, I planned on taking it easy and making the classic Luisa Pereira  enclosure to mount my joystick and house my Arduino. That didn’t come to fruition, however.

For PCOM/ICM finals, I am working with Simon Jensen on a wearable Heartbeat and Respiration monitor. On par with our timeline and this week’s user testing, it was time to enclose our respiration and heart sensors into a wearable. On Monday, I made a first prototype. Originally, I wanted to begin building it into a sports bra / tank because I want to begin thinking of the components as parts of a whole and understand how best to integrate them in an intuitive way. As a patternmaker, two of my primary concerns are fit and closures (how one gets into/out of a garment). I hit a roadblock thinking about how best to accommodate as many people as possible for user testing without having to make multiples. (Sizing standards exist for a reason and no size actually fits all.) Simon convinced me to focus on integrating the components first instead:

The design is essentially an adjustable belt that clips into position beneath the chest and above the abdomen. It has 2 channels for the respiration sensor and Polar belt to feed through:

It also has a pocket bag to house our feather board, LiPo battery, and bluetooth module. This is a video Simon documented of me wearing it beneath my shirt and testing it with data visualization of my breath:

I got great feedback from Simon and Aiden regarding size, comfort, sensor placement, and the adjustable strap closure. On my commute home, I sketched a design between falling asleep:

The next morning, I went to work and during my break, I drafted a pattern on CAD based on the measurements and feedback I received:

The pattern itself is quite simple. It is a rectangle on fold with 3/8″ seam allowances, clean finished edges and the channels are created by applying a topstitching. The top channel (1 1/8″) is for the respiration sensor, followed by an 1 1/2″ spacing between it and the Polar sensor channel to pocket the hardware. Notice the topstitching stops in the middle for alligator clip wires to attach to the respiration sensor.  I made a quick prototype out of muslin:

The trick to get all clean edges is by sewing an L-shape, flipping the remaining side through the pocket hole to sew together, then flipping it inside-out, then altogether right side out.

 Topstitching applied to create the channels:

I made some adjustments to the pattern and channel widths and remembered I had some leather leftover from a previous project:

Sadly, when I tried applying the final topstitching using the awful home-sewing machine in the ITP Soft Lab, it tore the leather. I know I’m not supposed to blame the machine and I know they aren’t equipped to sew leather to begin with, but I think our Soft Lab needs some upgrades. I almost lost my shit, but there’s no point moping and since I’ve already made three, I knew the fourth would come easier:

Back view w/ all parts enclosed:Front view w/ all parts enclosed:User testing today had a 6/7 success rate and received a lot of good feedback on our progress!

2 thoughts on “Wearable Enclosure

  1. Nice work, glad to see a soft enclosure. But why did the joystick box not work out? I’m curious.

    I’d recommend getting some documentation of the enclosure being worn, perhaps on one of the mannequins. The project would be much clearer.

    Why do you think you didn’t get 7/7 success rate? Again, just curious.

    1. Hey Ben –
      I didn’t get around to making the joystick box because I wanted to have this wearable enclosure ready in time for my ICM user testing on Wednesday. I realized it would satisfy the assignment for this week so I documented my process along the way and used my time to improve the prototype as much as I could.

      We know that our respiration sensor works, but it proved very difficult to integrate into an actual garment after many rounds of testing. We tried many methods and materials, including replacing the wires in our feather board with conductive thread by sewing circuits into a garment, but it ended up adding a lot of noise. We didn’t get 7/7 because the girl we tested on had a smaller chest circumference than my strap allotted for. Although it did work to some extent, there was more noise because the strap needs to be tight to pick up a wider range of resistance.

      I will add documentation of it being worn.

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